Dan and Lou Jordan on Monticello's West Lawn

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Monticello’s courageous, compassionate, and visionary leader Daniel P. Jordan, who passed away in Charlottesville on March 21st. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation rose to international prominence during his quarter-century of leadership, first as director and then president, from 1985 until his retirement in 2008. Monticello President Jane Kamensky observed that Jordan was “the most consequential president on the Mountaintop since Jefferson himself.” Jordan attributed any success he enjoyed, professionally and personally, to his partnership with his wife Lewellyn (Lou) Jordan, by whom he is survived, along with their three children and six grandchildren. He recalled that “from the very beginning, we both saw [Monticello] as the opportunity of a lifetime, and she was 100% a partner in the entire enterprise. It was twenty-four magical years, and we loved every day of it.”

A native Mississippian, Jordan received a B.A and M.A. in history from the University of Mississippi, where he was a scholarship athlete in baseball and basketball and served as student body president.  He credited his leadership style to his experience as an athlete and his training as an infantryman in the U.S. Army: “Take care of the troops and the troops will take care of you.” In 1970 he received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia, studying under the leading Jefferson scholar Merrill Peterson, who became a life-long mentor and friend. Jordan never forgot being welcomed to Monticello by UVa President Frank Hereford, who said, “You are one of us.” His strong ties to the University reaped benefits for the Foundation that continue to impact Monticello and our community to this day, ranging from the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies (ICJS) to the Saunders-Monticello Trail. Under Jordan’s leadership Monticello and the University of Virginia together earned the rare UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1987.

Like Thomas Jefferson, Jordan believed in the promise of an educated citizenry. He was a pioneer in the field of public history and sought innovative means of reaching students of all types, teaching award-winning courses over radio and public television, organizing summer seminars for teachers, and teaching in the Maximum-Security Division of the Virginia State Penitentiary.  As a member of the history faculty, he was twice voted “Teacher of the Year” at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jordan authored three books and almost a hundred articles, essays, and reviews. He served on dozens of boards, including the Advisory Board to the National Park System as chair and the National Trust for Historic Preservation as vice chair. He brought this experience and his network to bear on his work at Monticello: “I took this dream job with no hesitation or lack of confidence.”

Jordan made it a priority to establish a clear mission - preservation and education - and a strategic plan designed with staff input from the bottom up. He transformed the board of trustees from a regional one with life terms, to a rotating, national “resource” board, strengthening Monticello’s finances and reputation. Jordan arrived at a Monticello that had not formally raised funds since paying off its mortgage decades earlier; not only was there no endowment, but donation checks were also routinely returned to the donor. He effected dramatic change in Monticello’s culture of fundraising, including the creation of the Monticello Cabinet donor group. A favorite anecdote was how his hand-written thank-you note for a $100 donation ultimately attracted $36 million in gifts from Robert H. Smith, who remains the most generous donor in Monticello’s history. It illustrates Jordan’s belief that every gift mattered and the benefit of carefully informed stewardship, which he and his team exemplified. By the time of Jordan’s retirement, Monticello’s endowment had reached $120 million, seeded by the $5 million proceeds from the 1993 commemorative Jefferson coin, his characteristically clever and complex collaboration with the United States Mint.

Strengthening Monticello's Stewardship

Listen to a section of this oral history interview as Daniel P. Jordan reflects on the importance of a strong, supportive, and engaged board at Monticello.

Jordan adhered to Jefferson’s principle to “follow the truth wherever it may lead.” As director-elect, he visited Monticello several times as a “regular tourist,” and was struck by the fact that he never once heard a reference to Jefferson owning a plantation or the enslaved labor that it required. Once in leadership, he conveyed to staff that “from January the first on, we're going to try to tell the most honest story we can about Jefferson and slavery and race and the plantation, and it's all going to be based on serious scholarship." Toward that end, Jordan defined new academic departments (research, archaeology, restoration, education, publications, and historic plants), accelerated the publication of Jefferson’s writings with The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, and established the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. He supported a new generation of Jefferson-era research, passing the torch of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation professorship from Merrill Peterson to Peter Onuf.

No event more clearly illustrates Jordan’s dedication to transparency and scholarship - and his confidence in the Monticello staff - than his response to the Sally Hemings DNA study. Steadfast in the face of opposition, Jordan, in his words, “set the tone” to support Monticello’s scholars. Within 24 hours of the 1998 release of the study linking Jefferson to the paternity of Hemings’ son, Monticello held a press conference, posted public statements on the web site, and instructed interpreters in how to initiate conversations on the subject with visitors. The Foundation pledged to continuously evaluate all relevant evidence, advancing “our firm belief in telling a story here that is accurate and honest - and thus inclusive -about Jefferson’s remarkable life and legacy in the context of the complex and extraordinary plantation community that was Monticello.”

Jordan’s commitment to whole history changed not only Monticello but historic sites across the country. In 2023, he reflected that his efforts to begin reconciliation with three groups were the highlight of his 24 years: the Levy family who had once owned and stewarded Monticello; Native Americans; and Black Americans, particularly the descendants of those enslaved at Monticello. In 1985, Jordan immediately went to work to welcome descendants of the Levy family to Monticello and advocated for efforts to mark the grave of their matriarch, buried on Mulberry Row, and include their story in exhibitions, research, and publications. Jordan seized the 2003 bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition as an opportunity to welcome representatives of each Tribal Nation the Corps of Discovery encountered to Monticello for a national ceremony. Ever the educator, Jordan facilitated having every classroom in Albemarle County and Charlottesville host members of the Tribal Nations.

In 1993, the 250th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth, Monticello welcomed over 622,000 visitors, the second-highest attendance since 1976. Landmark events began January 17th of that year, when Dan and Lou Jordan hosted President-elect William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Clinton, and Vice President-elect Al Gore and Tipper Gore for the national kickoff of their inauguration, with a worldwide television audience of 100 million. Jordan viewed the year as an opportunity to launch major initiatives, which included the landmark exhibition, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello; the founding of the Getting Word African American Oral History Project for the descendants of those enslaved at Monticello; Plantation Community Tours (now Slavery at Monticello Tours); the founding of ICJS, the Thomas Jefferson Parkway; the Thomas Jefferson Commemorative Coin; and Monticello’s Evening Conversation Series.

Jordan’s vision is reflected in the Monticello of today. He expanded the campus to include Montalto, where he restored the home “Repose” as a conference center; negotiated the lease of adjacent Kenwood as the home for ICJS, enabling construction of the award-winning Jefferson Library; acquired approximately 900 acres that once belonged to Jefferson and put binding easements on almost 2,500 acres of the Foundation’s land; protected Monticello’s viewshed through collaborative work with neighbors; improved road safety with the Saunders bridge; and enhanced the entry corridor on the Jefferson Parkway with the Saunders-Monticello Trail and Kemper Park.

He prioritized preservation as well as education, working with the Historic American Buildings Survey to document Monticello; implemented a state-of-the-art roof restoration; restored Jefferson’s vineyard and road system; created the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants; identified and dedicated the Burial Ground for Enslaved People; and added interpretive signage on Mulberry Row, the plantation’s main street. He also initiated the development of the third website in the world for a history organization. Finally, Jordan’s commitment to education is made manifest in the last capital project of his Monticello career, the 2008 David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center, an award-winning, LEED-certified building containing galleries, educational classrooms, a theater, children’s discovery room, café, and museum shop, all resting lightly on the land.

July 4th was Jordan’s favorite day of the year at Monticello. He elevated the naturalization ceremony to become a signature national event, partnering with Coca-Cola and major media outlets, welcoming remarkable speakers, most of whom were themselves naturalized citizens, including: Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta, author Frank McCourt, historian David McCullough (also a dear friend), and architect I. M. Pei. President George W. Bush, who spoke on July 4th, 2008, was one of five presidents to visit Monticello during Jordan’s presidency, including his father, George H. W. Bush, who hosted a conference of governors on Monticello’s West Lawn in 1989.

The Jordans loved nothing more than welcoming visitors to Monticello. Among Dan’s favorites were Mick Jagger and the Dalai Lama. Jordan was taken by Jagger’s knowledge and energy, and by the Dalai Lama’s sense of humor. Dan loved to laugh, and he enjoyed recounting what struck him as a funny anecdote from that day. The Dalai Lama’s visit was very last-minute, and the only present Jordan had on hand was a shiny new nickel. After the tour Jordan spotted him leaving, and remarked upon the fact that he was still holding the nickel. “I said to Lou, ‘Gosh, he’s holding the nickel.’ And she said, ‘He doesn’t have any pockets. What else is he going to do?’” Though he seemingly relished being star-struck, Jordan also adored meeting anyone from his home state of Mississippi and famously set up what he termed “Magnolia Alerts,” where the ticket office would call him whenever they saw a Mississippi license plate so that he might personally greet the visitors.

Dan Jordan, Lou Jordan, and Monticello staff on the West LawnDan Jordan's retirement and staff farewell in 2008

Jordan’s humor and charm made him an immediate friend to all he met. He knew every staff person by name, was a Jeffersonian optimist, and always managed to get firewood into the hands of those who needed it most. He possessed an uncanny ability to recall an individual and remember key details about them, their life, and their family. He genuinely listened and cared. He also loved to have fun. Nothing pleased Jordan more than to host a staff softball game on the lawn in front of his home, or a garden party with friends and family after hours, except, perhaps, a ham biscuit and a Coca-Cola. “Good will above all,” was his mantra and the way he lived his remarkable life. “I always looked at Monticello as building a team,” he said. His team will miss their former captain.

Dan was immensely proud of his family and saw his time at Monticello as formative in their life experiences. He is survived by his wife Lewellyn (Lou) Jordan and their three children: Dan Jordan, III, a chief district judge in Jackson, Mississippi; Grace Jordan, an actress and landscape gardener in Charlottesville, Virginia; Katherine Jordan, an urban planner and city councilor in Richmond, Virginia; and six grandchildren. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to them all.

Details on memorial services and an obituary can be found online here »


Foundation Milestones

See the full list of projects and endeavors undertaken during Dan Jordan's 23-year tenure at Monticello.

Monticello Staff and Scholars Reflect on the Life and Legacy of Dan P. Jordan

Dan Jordan at his desk at MonticelloDan Jordan at his desk at Monticello

Dan transformed Monticello from a house museum to a history museum that could both advance scholarly understanding of Jefferson and his world and attract a wide swath of visitors interested in learning more about our past. He understood that these two projects supported one another. 

-- Fraser Neiman, Director of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation 


I started at Monticello in March of 2000 at the Garden Shop, a yellow/white tent in the parking lot right above the ticket office. I met Dan after I was hired, and was so impressed with him!  His knowledge of the foundation, of Monticello's history, and how he just loved being there, being around the people, visitors and the employees. When I changed positions to the Call Center, and he would come out to the warehouse and have Presidents meeting, he knew everyone's name!  and he hadn't seen us for probably a year. Even after he retired, I would see him and his wife, Lou, out, and he would remember me and knew my name!  When my father passed away, he handwrote a note to me. I thought that was the nicest thing to receive. How he cared and took the time. The Christmas parties were always a great time, especially with his chocolate cake for dessert! He will be missed in all aspects of this foundation, this community, and family. 

-- Dale Wood, Customer Service Team, Monticello Catalog 


Dan was the consummate gentleman. He was a visionary and compassionate leader, and a role model for all who had the privilege to work with him. One of the first things I was struck with when I joined the Foundation in 2002 was how he treated everyone with genuine respect. Regardless of whether you were a member of his Leadership Team, a longtime Monticello supporter, or one of the interpreters, gardeners or bus drivers working on the Mountaintop, he treated everyone with the same courtesy and regard. He took the time to recognize each and every person he encountered either by acknowledging their presence or by asking after their son or daughter by name. I once asked his former assistant Beth Cheuk how Dan was able to recall months and years later the names and pertinent details of people he had met briefly for just 5 or 10 minutes at an event or occasion. I came to the conclusion that Dan had a unique and special gift, and that was that he took a genuine and personal interest in everyone he met and in whomever he was speaking to. He listened intently to the answers he received when he asked them about themselves or about their family members, and gave them his full attention. Dan and Lou instilled loyalty among their friends, former staff and all who had the privilege to know them. He will be sorely missed. 

-- Endrina Tay, Fiske and Marie Kimball Librarian, Jefferson Library 


Dan with the Monticello business office team circa 1985Dan with the Monticello business office team, circa 1985

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, was also the home of the great President Dan Jordan who was admired by so many. I’m so thankful and grateful to Dr. Jordan for hiring me. I have so many great memories. Dr. Jordan, when I see Monticello, Jefferson Library, Montalto, Monticello Saunders Bridge and Trail, David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and Peanut M&M’s, I will always see you.

Here’s a funny story: 

It was the Board meeting, and Dr. Jordan loved his slide shows for the Board. That year, the Board meeting was at Kenwood. Dr. Jordan wanted a picture taken of them walking into Kenwood and have it made into a slide while they had lunch so he could have it in the slide show. That day! 

It was a way to show the Board that anything was possible. Dr. Jordan asked me if I could make this happen. I said yes but I would still need a job if I didn’t have a driver’s license. I took the picture. I drove to Barracks Road, had the slide printed, and was back with the slide by the end of their lunch break. He loved the looks on the Board members faces when they realized the slide was taken just before lunch. He made every day at Monticello fun. 

Dan, I will miss you always. 

-- Dana Capps, Mailroom Office Manager 


Dan was an incredible leader and friend. I worked under him from the beginning. There are so many memories. He had an incredible mind, which was agile to the end. He could recall anyone’s resume on a dime and was always so genuine when he greeted you.

He had a quick and quirky wit, and his deep southern accent was part of the charm. When we first started the Evening Conversations on the West Lawn at Monticello we seemed to be constantly plagued by sudden storms, so he started calling the events “drought busters” (pronounced “bustahs”).

Later, as we began to understand the events unfolding on September 11, 2001, we were all in shock and disbelief. I believe Dan was on his way to DC that morning and had to return to Charlottesville. That afternoon it was decided to close Monticello for the rest of the day. But before we left, we were invited to gather on the West Lawn. It was so moving to come together as “family” in such a moment of profound sadness and uncertainty.

He always made sure I knew that he fully supported me and our work at the Center for Historic Plants, which has meant a great deal ever since.

-- Peggy Cornett, Curator of Historic Plants 


“I will miss Dan for the remarkable man he was. I will miss him for having faith and trust in me and the work I did and for the enrichment his presence in my life gave me. I will miss his sense of humor and his ever-present sense of fairness in all things along with his generosity of spirit and time. His unparalleled love and devotion to dear Monticello will remain singular always. 

-- Millie Travis, Monticello Staff 1981-2002 


I knew Dan for almost 58 years, beginning in graduate school when my then wife and I met Lou and him at the history department’s welcoming picnic in McIntire Park. A group of four married couples quickly formed, enjoying an active social life together during the years we were students, and Dan and I were the two who continued our relationship until last night.

-- Charles T. Cullen, President Emeritus of Newberry Library


In 2001, fresh out of college with a film degree and not even a minor in history, I found myself feeling somewhat out of place at Monticello. Nevertheless, Dan took the initiative to get to know me and appreciated my passion for movies, often engaging me in movie trivia whenever we crossed paths—something that happened frequently as he enjoyed spending time on the mountaintop.

Recognizing me as "the film guide," Dan made sure I had the opportunity to lead tours for numerous TV and film personalities visiting Monticello. While Dan could have easily conducted these tours himself, he understood how much I enjoyed these interactions. Thanks largely to Dan's support, I had the privilege of giving tours to the likes of Nicholas Cage, Lisa Marie Presley, Gena Rowlands, Michael J. Fox, Uma Thurman's parents, and several others. Yet, my most memorable tour occurred when Dan mistakenly thought he was sending me Russell Crowe, fresh off his acclaimed role in "A Beautiful Mind" and riding high after Gladiator. Sometime after the tour, Dan inquired about how it went, and I couldn't bring myself to admit that I had actually guided mathematician John Nash, the real-life inspiration behind the movie - not the renowned actor who portrayed him. Years later, I frequently encountered Dan and Lou on Fridays at Dr. Ho's Humble Pie, where Dan eagerly awaited any new stories of encounters with famous individuals.

See you again after the Intermission. 

-- Ian Atkins, Digital Media Producer at Monticello 


When Covid essentially closed Monticello to visitors during the summer of 2020, Paycheck Protection Program funds were available for non-public jobs around Monticello, and I was among several veteran tour guides assigned to projects at the Jefferson Library. My particular task took several months; it was to organize and catalogue materials related to fundraising campaigns held during the 1990s and early 2000s when Dan was President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. These were in boxes stacked in the hall leading to the librarian’s office where it seemed they had been for an undetermined length of time. On opening them, I found numerous campaign organizing materials, agendas and minutes of many meetings, details of fundraising goals and priorities, donor prospects, fundraising brochures, lists of gifts and grants, named gift policies, guidelines for counting gifts, gift income graphs, correspondence, logs of weekly conference calls, memos, visitation reports, and most poignantly, copies of thank-you letters Dan had written to a number of special donors.

Among the notes was one he had sent to a young girl in Texas who had made a contribution of several dollars. A note from her mother explained that the young lady had raised the money by selling lemonade with a special purpose in mind. She wanted to use the fruits of her labors to make a donation to a charitable or non-profit organization she thought especially important and she had chosen Monticello! Dan’s thank-you note to this young lady was as warm and personal as those he sent to donors of thousands of dollars! 

-- Betsy Baten, Retired Monticello Guide


When my father was chair of the Foundation, I was fortunate to attend a dinner with the board in the house. Of course, the event included proper toasts to Mr. Jefferson. After each, rather than "hear hear" or such, the amen part was "praise him." In line with Janes' note, same for Dan.

--Bob Carter, Redlands


I started at Monticello in 2001, and remember my first meeting with Dan. I was nervous, but he made me feel at ease with his easygoing nature. In December of 2005, while I’d been working part-time in IT, Dan asked if I could come and help in the President’s Office. A sudden departure of the Admin Assistant had created a void right before end of year busyness. I started as Dan’s assistant and remained in that role until he retired in 2008.

A few Dan memories:

  • He took a walk around the Monticello property every morning. A lot of times his dog Paco would be with him. I usually arrived to work at 6:30 am and he would already be out! Frequently he had a recorder with him where he would be dictating a contact report or something he needed transcribed. And yes, I had an old-school transcription machine I would use to transcribe those tapes 😊
  • All the Dan-isms. The sports analogies, the military lingo, the running lists (Moscow rules, anyone?)
  • How much he enjoyed going to the Neshoba County Fair (and then Destin) every summer with his family. He would talk about the history of the fair over the years and even brought in a National Geographic magazine once that featured the fair and some of Dan’s family members!

For me personally, Dan was an incredible advocate. He heaped more praise on me than I ever deserved, and would have helped me in any way possible. There are many things that I could say about Dan regarding his accomplishments, but for me, what made Dan really special was his ability to connect with and care about others. He was intelligent, disciplined, and efficient, but he cared deeply about his own family and his Monticello family. He was incredibly proud of Lou and his children and had a deep love for his home state of Mississippi. In fact, if he heard a Monticello visitor was here from Mississippi, he would walk out of his office and greet them personally as a fellow Mississippian! He knew Monticello staff by name, and always asked them about their family or something they had going on in their life when he saw them. He made sure that people he interacted with felt heard and seen. He treated me like a family member, as he did so many others. Dan was truly one of a kind. Monticello, and the world, was a better place because of him. He will be sorely missed.

--Melanie Holland, Curator of Digital Programs and Content


In 1993, fresh out of college, I traveled to Charlottesville in hopes of pursuing a graduate degree in history. While that didn't pan out, in my estimation, with 30 years of perspective, I received something more meaningful to me - a job at Monticello while Dan Jordan was its President.

I remember that Dan was the last person I had to meet as part of the interview process, and I was nervous! For some reason when I got to the mountaintop, I couldn't locate the entrance to Dan's office near the gift shop. I got all turned around, and with my anxiety rising, I recall walking up a flight of stairs to a door behind the building (I could be wrong, but that's how I remember it). As I walked through the door, I think I surprised Dan! He greeted me, and if he was quietly wondering why I came through a door that wasn't the entrance, he didn’t show it. Dan made me feel right at home. We talked about many things, including my home state of Massachusetts, and what he called "a very fine school" - my alma mater UMass at Amherst. I found it sort of odd he didn't ask me much about my education, my work experience, or the job. It dawned on me years later that he wanted to learn more about who I was as a person because he trusted my future supervisor, and now lifelong friend, Paula Newcomb and her team, to recommend qualified candidates. Dan made a point of stressing how much he valued the role I was applying for and its importance to the Monticello mission of preservation and education. The way Dan approached our “interview” is a method I’ve used for more than two decades of recruiting candidates.

I don't believe I met Dan again after I left Monticello in December 1993 but from time to time I think back to the day we met and what a transformative experience those 6 months on the mountain top were in my life. I'm fortunate to remain friends with my former development and public affairs colleagues for over 30 years! Walking into Dan's office that day in June changed so much for me and I will remain forever grateful.

--Peter Lamothe, Monticello Staff June - December 1993


Dan Jordan was a natural, modest, open, and courageous leader. He built an outstanding educational enterprise based on research and scholarship. Dan never called attention to himself and took credit for nothing except the honor and privilege of leading the best staff of any historic site in the nation. Dan knew every guide, bus driver, archaeologist, and gardener by name and well enough to ask about their spouses and children. Under Dan’s transformative leadership, Monticello became a widely admired pioneer in the public interpretation of slavery beginning in 1986, thus moving the arc of history toward justice. He followed “truth wherever it may lead.” How grateful we are for his many accomplishments, vision, generous spirit, and moral compass! He was one of a kind.

-- Susan R Stein, Richard Gilder Senior Curator, Special Projects


Dan Jordan at a Monticello Board Dinner in 2017Dan Jordan, Monticello Board Dinner in 2017

When I was only a couple months into my job in June 2021, Dan and I exchanged a couple of emails before a donor event in which he asked me what brought me to Monticello. When I met him for the first time at the event, he immediately recalled what I wrote to him and asked engaging follow-up questions, showing a genuine interest in my story. After the event, he even sent me a follow-up email.

It would be an extraordinary thing for a leader of any organization to show such care; it was something entirely another for a former leader to do that. Dan was sincerely interested in making Monticello better, starting and ending with the staff. That dedication clearly did not stop when he retired in 2008. His thoughtful attention to me on that day confirmed the many wonderful things I had heard about him. I think back on that interaction often and, like so many others, remember Dan fondly.

-- Noah Duell, Donor Stewardship Officer


The Papers of Thomas Jefferson edition is one of the flagship projects in scholarly documentary editing. However, in 1999 the Papers had not yet reached Jefferson’s vice-presidency, and scholars were understandably discouraged that they might not live to see the end of this important work. Dan had the vision and courage to step in and negotiate an agreement with Princeton University by which the Thomas Jefferson Foundation took on financial and editorial responsibility for half of the remaining work. By establishing the Retirement Series at Monticello, and effectively cloning the project, progress more than doubled. Without this initiative, even now, after another quarter-century, everything after 1805 would still be largely inaccessible to most scholars. Instead, 20 out of an anticipated 24 volumes are now in print, documenting the years from 1809 to 1824. As an enduring recognition of Dan’s role in this crucial scholarly advance, as well as his many other contributions to Monticello, Jefferson scholarship, and the nation, the chief editing position at the Foundation was permanently endowed in 2017 as the Daniel P. Jordan Editorship of the Jefferson Papers at Monticello. As the founding Jordan editor, I was and will always be overwhelmed with pride to have my name thus connected to that of this thoughtful, wise, charming, witty, and quintessentially gracious gentleman.

-- J. Jefferson Looney
25 March 2024
Daniel P. Jordan Editor of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series


Knowing and working for Dan Jordan was an exceptional opportunity and a great privilege for me. His organizational skills were without measure. His knowledge of the very significance and the part played by Thomas Jefferson and Monticello in the American experience consistently guided his day to day decisions regardless of the many challenges he faced in the place-based history world. The imprint of the decisions Dan made to reclaim Monticello from a house museum to Jefferson's greater mountaintop masterpiece of today are obvious. He was a master at assembling a skilled team of scholars to achieve this transformation. He never failed to listen to and never failed to publicly showcase the staff consistently with his famous thorough introductions. He was a great boss and friend of mine during and after my years of archaeological research at Monticello. I will miss Dan but it comforts me to know that he must now be with the better angels.

-- William Kelso, Monticello Director of Archaeology, 1979 - 1993


The success of my book, Saving Monticello --the story of the Levy Family's stewardship of Monticello--would not have happened without Dan Jordan's generosity and graciousness. From the moment I came to Monticello in 1997 to start my research for what would become the book, until the last years of his life, Dan couldn't have been more helpful and encouraging. 

Among many other things, he answered all of my many questions about his time at Monticello while I was researching the book. He volunteered to host an event at Monticello following the book's publication in 2001, and was extremely welcoming when we arrived on the Mountaintop the afternoon of the talk. I can still see him sitting attentively and proudly in the audience. 

After that, he regularly wrote to me while he headed the Foundation and after he retired,  always with kind and gracious words about the book, the Saving Monticello newsletter I have produced monthly since 2002, and the 2022 documentary, "The Levys of Monticello," to which he contributed.

I will always be grateful to him for that--and for championing Monticello's recognition of the Levy Family for their 89-year stewardship of Monticello since the day he became the head of the Foundation in 1985 and immediately began to give the Levys the recognition they deserved.  

He was, in every respect, a great man. 

-- Marc Leepson, Historian and Author of Saving Monticello: The Levy Family’s Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built


I was among the last hired onto Monticello's "Team Jordan" as Director of Buildings in early 1987. Dan did everyone the honor of listening intently to their input, but he was not afraid to follow his instincts and go against a consensus opinion. A telling example was a leadership huddle on the eve of the long-planned celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Representatives from forty Native American tribes, nationally acclaimed speakers, and thousands of school children and guests were slated to arrive on the mountaintop in the early hours of January 18th. The weather prediction was for clear skies, but morning temperatures would be in the single digits. I had made arrangements to use U Hall, then UVA's basketball arena, in case of severe weather. Dan went around the table to give each of us the opportunity to state our preference and our reasoning, and the clear majority advised against exposing so many to such deep and prolonged cold. Dan thanked us but showed no hesitation in deciding to go forward at Monticello. He trusted in the mitigating efforts in place on the mountaintop and in the participants to make their own choices. He also reasoned that extreme conditions create lasting memories, and that this would be an event that deserved to be remembered and to be forever associated with Monticello. As usual, Dan was right, and that celebration remains one of the most unforgettable moments in Monticello history.

-- Mike Merriam, TJF Director of Facilities Planning and Construction 1987 - 2009


When I think of Dan Jordan, I salute his leadership and the tremendous impact of his initiatives at Monticello.  But less discernible perhaps is what Dan made possible.   Monticello was positively transformed during his tenure, and that would be high praise in and of itself, but he also left  it ripe for continual growth and transformation.  I often said that I stood on his shoulders when I succeeded him.  So much of what we were able to do in my 15-year tenure relied on scholarship and values that he had put in place.  Like Thomas Jefferson, Dan was always about progress and possibilities.  The "little mountain" became a much bigger place as a result of his vision and dedication.

-- Leslie Greene Bowman, Thomas Jefferson Foundation President Emerita